By Bob Booth
I can’t remember when it occurred to me to use Psalm 22 for imagery in a painting of the crucifixion, but the extraordinary nature of this psalm comes as it were, from within the suffering, confronting us with naked humanity rather than processed tradition.
The psalm heaves desperately between defencelessness in the face of unbridled brutality, and a faith which offers no relief. This is very disquieting imagery and leaves no space for the comfort of detachment or sentimentality.
Although there is a case to be made for art as essentially about beauty, it is not necessarily the beauty of prettiness or even pleasantness. Artists don’t seem to be drawn only to beautiful scenes or people for their subjects, and there are plenty of examples to indicate that quite the reverse can be true.
So if art is about beauty it would have to include beauty of a different kind, a kind that is more to do with authenticity rather than appearance.
It may seem a bit odd to imply that the visual arts are not essentially to do with appearance, but I find it difficult to escape this conclusion, and the need to understand art as something more than mere appearance.
I believe that art deals with a beauty which doesn’t need to change what is visible, but it transforms the substance of it in some way. This substantial, essential beauty, is I believe the hope of human creativity, and one reason why art has long been closely associated with Faith.